Things are different in America.
Lady Cora I know. They live in wigwams.
Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham
The Dowager Countess might never have considered crossing the pond, but the clothes off her back have already made the journey. About 40 original costumes from Masterpieces most tea-soaked drama are now up and on display at Costumes of Downton Abbey, a year-long exhibit at Winterthur, glorious Delawares own monument to genteel days gone by. And these period pieces should feel right at home there. After all, Highclere Castle (the real-life estate where Downton shoots) was remodeled and rebuilt in 1839, the same year that Jacques Antoine Bidermann and his wife Evelina, a daughter of E. I. du Pont, moved into their new countryside estate at Winterthur. (History lesson over.) Take a tour through Winterthurs 175 rooms and its meticulously tended gardens, and you can easily imagine yourself back in a time when the American aristocracy ruled over these bucolic lands, with their army of faithful (though undoubtedly saucy) servants tending to their every need (and to their own tawdry affairs). If you're planning a pilgrimage to the age of the Edwardians, take some time to fully immerse yourself in the experience with some Downton-worthy dining:
- Tea and crumpets at the Centreville Cafe.
Susan Teiser is the quite proper proprietor of the Centreville Cafe, and she has prepared an afternoon tea so lovely, it would make even Isobel Crawley pipe down and munch away. Just up Route 52 from Winterthur, this tea service (served on English china) should soothe both the soul and the hunger pangs of the weary traveller. Expect your own personal pot of tea with milk and sugar; small scones with butter, clotted cream and jam; tea sandwiches that might include ham and chopped deviled eggs and other varied deliciousness (I stole a few samples); and assorted sweets like cream puffs, lemon squares and petit fours. Teas are served at 3pm and 4pm Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (with 1pm Sunday hours about to be added, to deal with the insatiable Downton demand for tea), all for $24.95 per person. Reservations in advance are a must at 302.425.5808.
- Pints and a proper British cocktail at Buckley's Tavern.
Right next to the Centreville Cafe awaits a warm tavern with a copper bar, around which locals gather to pay tribute to the remains of the day. Pints of Fullers and other British beers often accompany fish and chips (their No. 1 bestselling entree), but bartenders will rightly try to tempt you with one of those new-fangled cocktail drinks. Try a gin and tonic made with Fever-Tree Premium Tonic Water (imported from the UK), or a Painkiller made with Pusser's Rum, made from the original recipe of Great Britain's Royal Navy. (This is true: That rum was enjoyed by generations of sailors including, no doubt, one Mr. Charles Blake all the way until the 1970s, when Admiral Peter Hill-Norton, seemingly just figuring out that the rum might affect job performance on board ship, had the rum rations replaced with beer rations. I promise, no more history lessons, but that's just useful information right there.)
- British pub grub at Stoneys.
If your tastes run more downstairs than upstairs, this is your destination for traditional British pub fare, whether that be a steak & kidney pie or a classic roast beef and Yorkshire pudding (Saturdays only, chaps). If you want to rub elbows with the local hooligans, try to go when there's a match on the telly. (If you're in town during the 2014 FIFA World Cup, get there early and expect an even livelier time then usual.)
- Afternoon Tea at the Hotel du Pont.
The landmark Hotel du Pont opened its doors on Jan 15, 1913, just a couple of months before Matthew Crawley and his mum arrived at Downton and yes, this is where any dowager countess worth her title would rest her head while staying in Wilmington. (Downton room packages are available throughout the length of the exhibit.) Afternoon tea is offered up every day of the week starting at 3pm. Pick your blend (from traditional Earl Grey to more modern herbal infusions) and then prepare your stomach for a veritable parade of tasty bites, from classic tea sandwiches to scones and pastries prepared under the watchful eye of the hotels Executive Pastry Chef Michelle Mitchell.